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November 7, 2014

Re:      Weekly Policy Update

Dear Mayor:

Here is a brief update on legislative and policy issues of interest to municipalities. 

I. Paid Sick Leave Advances, A-2354

On October 27, the Assembly Labor Committee advanced, with some minor amendments, A-2354, which would require each employer to provide paid sick leave to its employees.    The League, along with the New Jersey Association of Counties and the New Jersey School Boards Association, provided testimony and requested that A-2354 be amended to exempt local governments.  Specifically, the League testimony highlighted that the 194 municipalities in Civil Service are required to provide sick leave.  Further, the League noted that for other municipalities, sick leave is the subject of collective negotiations and that these sick leave provisions are extended to non-union and at-will employees.  Municipal employees already receive sick leave and the League noted that the municipalities which have passed local sick leave ordinances exempted public employers and employees from the requirements for these same reasons.   

The bill is now 2nd referenced to the Assembly Budget Committee for further consideration.  We are hopeful that when the Committee again takes up the issue, municipalities will be exempted.  However, we recommend that you bring this to the attention of your legislators.   
Contact: Mike Cerra, mcerra@njslom.com or 609-695-3481, ext. 120.

II. Financing Cost Estimate from NJEIT Mandatory for Environmental Infrastructure Projects over $500,000

S-2354, which would require local governments and authorities to obtain financing cost estimates required to be provided by New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust for certain projects, was amended and released from the Senate Environment Committee on October 27.  The League opposes S-2354.

Specifically, this bill would require any local government financing $500,000 or more for an environmental infrastructure project to request from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT) an estimate of financing cost, if the project was to be funded in whole or in part by the NJEIT.  Municipalities would apply on line using a website not yet developed.  NJEIT will have 15 days from the submission of a completed form to provide a comparison of the estimates of financing cost and underwriting fees, service fees and interest cost for a project financed through the trust versus a project financed through the bond process.  If the local government does not finance an environmental infrastructure project with funding provided by the NJEIT, then it must submit the financing cost estimate provided by the NJEIT, together with the supplemental debt statement, to Division of Local Government Services.

An environmental infrastructure project is defined as the acquisition, construction, improvement, repair or reconstruction of all or part of any structure, facility or equipment, or real or personal property necessary for or ancillary to any (1) wastewater treatment system project, including any stormwater management or combined sewer overflow abatement projects; or (2) water supply project, including any water resources project. 

Municipalities currently have the option of pursuing a loan from the NJEIT. S-2354, while well intended, mandates a lengthy process that will delay a project.   The threshold of $500,000 is low and for larger municipalities could be easily be met with a road reconstruction project replacing stormwater drains.  In addition, the provisions of S-2354 apply regardless of the funding source. At times, a municipality will receive grant funds for the cost of the project but will finance the project due to the timing of the release of the funds. S-2354 does not exempt a municipality from going through the process, even if they are receiving grants. S-2354 now awaits consideration by the Senate Budget Committee.
Contact: Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x112.

III. Bill would delay the charging of interest on late property tax bills in certain circumstances

A-3052, would prohibit a municipality from charging interest on a late property tax bill if 30 days prior to the property tax payment date the Governor declared a State of Emergency due to a significant weather event or natural disaster only if payment is made on or before the 1st day of the next calendar month from which the bill was initially due.

The League initially opposed A-3052, however, the sponsors have amended the bill to address our concerns.  As you are aware, municipalities must remit to the County and board of education their portion of the tax levy within a very narrow timeframe from the collection of taxes.  We were concerned with the impact on municipal finances.  A-3052 was amended to permit the Division of Local Government Services by regulation to extend the dates for payment to the County, board of education and any other taxing district as provided by law.

We anticipate that the bill could be further amended to better define the specific state of emergencies that would meet the requirements of A-3052.

We thank the sponsors, Assemblyman Mazzeo, Assemblywoman Pinkin, Assemblyman Mukherji and Assemblyman Wimberly, for addressing our concerns.  We now support A-3052, which awaits consideration by the Assembly Appropriation Committee.
Contact: Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x112.

IV. Voters Approve 2 Ballot Questions

On Tuesday, voters approved two statewide ballot questions, including:

Open Space Funding
Voters approved a constitutional amendment to dedicate funding for a thirty-year period for open space preservation.      Currently 4% of the CBT is dedicated to funding a number of programs within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP,)  SCR-84  will now reallocate the current CBT dedication to funding open space programs and, beginning in FY 2020, increase the amount dedicated from 4% to 6%

Bail Reform
Voters also approved, SCR-128 would allow judges to order the pretrial detention of a person in a criminal case. 

Contact: Mike Cerra, 609-695-3481x120 or mcerra@njslom.com

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

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